Are You a Weekend Exercise Warrior? A New Study Says You’re Not Missing Out

There’s a lot we know about exercise. We know about its benefits, like its ability to improve heart health or relieve depression, and we know how great strength training can be for strengthening bones and burning fat. We also know approximately how much exercise we should be getting to see these benefits…and the list goes on. But there’s also a lot we know about humans, one important thing being that we’re super busy and are prone to skipping our daily workouts. 

We also have good intentions, though! And, because we do want to get the benefits of working out (and we don’t want to feel guilty) many of us become “weekend workout warriors,” meaning we cram all of our workout sessions into the two days of the week that we’re not so busy, stressed, and tired. If that sounds like you, and you’ve been beating yourself up about not working out all week, you’ll be very interested to hear about a study that suggests you might actually be getting the same benefits as someone who spreads their workouts out throughout the week. 

A Review: How Much Exercise Should We Be Getting?

Before we dive into the study, let’s quickly review the recommendations for how much exercise we should be getting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should get:two people riding their bikes

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week – This means something that gets your heart rate up and makes you break a sweat (you should be able to talk, but not belt out a tune). These 150 minutes can include things like brisk walking, riding your bike, or even heavy chores like pushing a lawn mower or gardening – OR
  • 75 minutes of vigorous activity – This type of activity should raise your heart rate quite a bit, and make you breathe hard and fast (you shouldn’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath). To get these 75 minutes in, you can try things like running/jogging, swimming laps, riding your bike fast on a hilly route, dancing, etc. – OR
  • An equivalent mix of the two types of activity – PLUS
  • 2 days a week (or more) of muscle-strengthening activitiesYou can use weights, resistance bands, or do bodyweight activities, but make sure to work all the major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. 

So those are the minimum recommendations laid out by the CDC, and agreed upon by a lot of other medical experts. But here’s the thing: they don’t actually say that it’s better to break up those 150/75 minutes into equal chunks spread out over the whole week, and there is not really a whole lot of evidence to suggest that’s the only way to get your exercise in. And now there’s proof that you can fit working out into your busy life, and still reap the benefits.

The Study: Good News for Weekend Warriors

A new international study has found that working out on the weekends is just as effective for your health as working out daily is – but the key is that you need to be doing the same amount of exercise as you would if you were to workout every day. The study, led by Mauricio dos Santos, MS.c., an exercise physiology researcher from the Federal University of São Paulo in Brazil, analyzed public health data for over 350,000 people in the US collected through the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) between 1997 and 2013. They investigated the question, “Does performing the recommended levels of weekly physical activity in 1 to 2 sessions (weekend warrior) vs 3 or more sessions (regularly active) influence mortality?”

This is basically the first time that scientists have really determined if cramming all of your physical activity into 1 or 2 sessions a week (or being a weekend warrior) is comparable to spreading out your recommended dose of movement in terms of health benefits (mortality), and guess what? They found very little difference between weekend warriors and regular exercisers in terms of reduced mortality risk from all causes, and specifically from illnesses like cancer or cardiovascular disease.

In fact, the researchers concluded that “individuals who engage in active patterns of physical activity, whether weekend warrior or regularly active, experience lower all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates than inactive individuals.” And “individuals who engage in the recommended levels of physical activity may experience the same benefit whether the sessions are performed throughout the week or concentrated into fewer days.”

Sounds like good news for all of us who are busy on the weekdays, but like to get in a good, long workout on our days off – because, remember, you’ve still got to get in your recommended amount of exercise, no matter when you do it or how you spread it out. 

But what if that doesn’t work for you? Are there other, just as effective, ways to work your workout into your week?

Another Option for Fitting In Your Recommended Dose of Exercise 

The above study is not the only one that suggests you don’t need to be so regimented with the timing of your workouts. There is another study that found that you can still get the health benefits of exercise, even if you can only cram in 10 minutes or so at a time. 

In a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, participants ages six and older were asked to wear an accelerometer (an instrument that measures vibration and acceleration) for seven days from 2003 to 2006. Researchers then used data from 4,850 participants that were 40 to 85 years old and followed up in 2015 to determine their self-reported health status.

people dancing zumba outside

And, while the researchers were actually just looking to determine if exercise increased longevity, they had some interesting findings about the amount of exercise needed to boost health. They found that, yes, exercise reduces mortality – and were surprised by how little at a time could make a difference. The study estimated that approximately 110,000 deaths per year could be prevented if adults aged 40 to 85 increased their moderate-to-vigorous physical activity intensity (MVPA) by as little as just 10 minutes per day. In fact, increasing MVPA by 10, 20, or 30 minutes per day was associated with a 6.9%, 13%, and 16.9% decrease in deaths per year, respectively.

So what does that mean for you if you’re not a weekend warrior or someone who gets in a consistent daily workout? Well, even fitting in 10 minutes at a time can make a difference to your health! And if you can do that 3 times a day on some days, or more or less on other days, you can meet your recommended amount of physical activity, or maybe even sneakily get some extra exercise in. 

For example, if you take a brisk walk while talking on the phone for 10 minutes, have a 10-minute dance party with your kids after school, and do a mini HIIT workout while watching TV for 10 minutes in the evening, you’ll have hit the 30-minute mark without even realizing it!

The bottom line is: exercising is the right thing to do for your health, so don’t let time constraints keep you from doing something that could extend your life. Stop worrying about finding time for a workout at the same time, for the same amount of time, every day, and just get moving whenever you can! Studies are actually proving that you don’t need to be an “all or nothing” exerciser – “all or something” is just as good, and could keep you healthier, for longer. And we want you around for a long, long time! 

We want to hear from you: are you a weekend warrior when it comes to exercise? Or are you all about spreading the love when it comes to working out? Are you getting in your recommended amount – or will these studies motivate you, knowing that even a little at a time, or a longer weekend workout can help?

Co-written by Joanna Bowling

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Tips for Exercising Outdoors in the Winter

It’s official: it’s cold out there. But that doesn’t mean that you have to head to a gym or give up on exercise completely. If you’re feeling up for an invigorating, wintery outdoor exercise session, great! There are definitely benefits to going outside and getting your sweat on when the mercury drops. For one thing, there’s no heat and humidity to deal with, meaning you might be able to work out longer. You’ll also burn more calories, not only from being able to work out longer, but because your body will need to work harder to keep warm. Add to that the boost to your vitamin D levels, as well as the boost to your immune system during cold and flu season, and you’ve got lots of reasons to work up a sweat outside this winter. But before you get out there, check out our tips for staying safe outside no matter the weather.

How Cold Is Too Cold?

Getting out in the fresh air is generally a good idea, but before you head out, be sure to check the weather forecast. Remember to take into account the moisture levels outside, as well as the wind chill factor, Wind chill extremes can make it unsafe to spend long periods of time outside, especially if you’re sweating or have exposed skin. The wind can penetrate your clothing and remove the insulating layer of warm air surrounding your body, and moisture in the air can lower your core body temperature.

So when does the double whammy of cold and wind chill mean you should skip the outside exercise? Well, consider the chances of frostbite in the following temperatures:

thermometer in Celsius in the snow that is showing below 20 degrees

  • The risk of frostbite is less than 5% when the air temperature is above 5°F (minus 15°C), but the risk rises as the wind chill falls.
  • At wind chill levels below minus 18°F (minus 28°C), frostbite can occur on exposed skin in 30 minutes or less.
  • If the temperature dips below zero °F (minus 18°C) or the wind chill is extreme, consider taking a break or choosing an indoor exercise instead, especially if it is also wet outside and you don’t have proper waterproof gear. 

You should also know the signs of both frostbite and hypothermia if you are going to spend time outside in more extreme temperatures. When in comes to frostbite, it usually occurs on exposed areas like cheeks, you nose, or your fingers or toes, so be on the lookout for the following sensations in those parts: 

  • Numbness
  • Loss of feeling
  • Stinging sensation

Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature, and you’re at risk for it if you spend prolonged periods outside in very cold – and especially wet – weather. If you experience any of the following signs/symptoms of hypothermia, seek medical attention:

  • Intense shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Fatigue

One way to protect yourself from the wind chill? Go against the wind first, so when you’re tired and sweaty at the end of your workout, the wind will be at your back and you’ll fight less wind chill.

Dress Smart

person in a blue coat with sunglasses on and orange hat with blue hoodie up
Dress dry and warm in order to keep your heat within your body. 

While there are times when you should be wary of a long workout session outside, in most cases, and in most places, you should be able to enjoy a run, bike, power walk, or hike without much worry. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be as prepared as possible. The first step? Choosing the right clothing and accessories. When gearing up, remember to:

  • Dress dry, not just warm: The last thing you want is soggy, clammy clothes sticking to you during your workout and drawing heat out of your body. This is one time when you want to actually skip the natural fibers like cotton and opt for moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester and nylon.
  • Layer up, but…Make sure your layers are easy to peel off and store, whether it’s something you can tie around your waist or attach to your backpack, so you don’t get TOO warm.
  • Protect your extremities: One of the tricks to keeping the cold at bay is to keep your feet and hands as protected as possible. Choose shoes that are at least water-wicking, if not waterproof, and socks that are ideally a mixture of materials like merino wool and nylon. As long as it’s not too wet or snowy, you can get away with a thin pair of knit gloves to protect your hands. If it’s really chilly out, consider also adding a warm, thick headband or earmuffs, and a scarf or gaiter wrapped around your neck and the lower half of your face. 
  • Be bright! Darker winter days mean you’ll be harder to see when you’re outside, especially in the evening (it gets dark at 4.30 in some places!), so dress in bright colors, and consider adding a reflective vest or a headlamp to your list of gear.
  • Keep your footing: Just as you would check your tires to make sure their tread isn’t worn down, check your running shoes to make sure that they’ve still got grip!

Safety First

As we already mentioned, you should always take your workout inside if you start shivering or if your extremities start to feel too cold; we’ll also add to that list, if you’re breathing becomes labored or you can’t catch your breath. You also need to dress smartly so you can stay dry and warm, as well as be seen. But there are other things you need to do to stay safe when heading outside for a wintery workout:black and white picture of a hand holding a cell phone with the other handing texting with a finger

  • Always bring your mobile phone with you
  • Let someone know where you will be and when you will be back
  • Don’t skip your warm-up or cooldown: Your body will need time to adjust to the cold and then readjust to a resting state, so give it that time! Try a dynamic warm-up, including some light cardio and joint mobilization. For example, you can do 3 rounds of high knees (for one minute), 20 side to side lunges, and 20 jumping jacks. When your workout is over, do some static stretching, and then immediately change out of those sweaty clothes! 

Hydration Isn’t Just for Hot Weather

man sitting outside in the snow bundled up, drinking water from a cannister.
Hydration is extremely important when working out, including when running outside in the cold.

What’s one thing you’d never forget to do when exercising in the heat? Drink water! It’s hard to forget about staying hydrated when you’re hot and sweaty in the sun, but it can be easy to leave the water bottle at home when it’s cold outside. But winter is the one time when you should forgo the old, “drink when you’re thirsty, don’t when you’re not” rule; you may not feel much like guzzling a cold beverage when it’s chilly out, but you can still get dehydrated no matter the temperature. 

Find what that will keep you drinking, whether it’s playing around with the temperature of your water to find what’s most palatable to you, adding a flavoring to your water, or even switching to a sports drink (although water is always a better choice than sweetened or artificially flavored beverages). If you really can’t bring yourself to drink during your workout, then make sure to drink enough before and after – approximately 20 ounces should be enough. If you plan on working out for more than 90 minutes, though, your best bet is to keep drinking throughout. 

Your couch may be calling when the cold weather sets in, but there’s no reason not to keep moving in winter! If you’re bored of doing burpees in your living room, or running up and down your stairs, invigorate your workout and your body with a change of scenery and a brisk outdoor workout. Just remember to dress right, listen to your body, stay hydrated, warm up and cool down – and remember that your couch, throw blanket, and hot drink will be waiting for you when you get back!